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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Home Or Away?

September 5th, 2010

In late summer before my junior year of high school in 1979 our small town in Iowa was on the receiving end of some torrential rains. So much that it flooded our football field. Not in a “give ‘er a week and it’ll dry out” way. Rather in a “how long and how many pumps will this take?” way. The water was above knee deep. As a result, we began our season playing all our games on the road. Even our home games were away games. That particular year it didn’t make a difference as we didn’t lose until the state championship. Still, we would have preferred to play those “home/away” games on our own field.

In athletics we talk about the home field advantage. Any team in any sport at any level would always rather play at home. It’s our comfort zone. We’re familiar with our field, our arena, our diamond. We like playing on the same court that we practice on. Not to mention the advantage of playing in front of our home town fans who know us and cheer for us. Hometown fanatics in our bleachers give us an edge by encouraging us and making it impossibly noisy for the opponents. It’s why we dress up and paint ourselves in our school’s colors and pack out a stadium to scream for four quarters.

Simply put, we like playing home games because it’s familiar territory. And we don’t like playing away games because it’s unfamiliar territory.

So here’s the $64,000 question: How comfortable would you be if every game was an away game?

I’ve been thinking about home and away. Especially as it pertains to us as Christians in our relationships with those who have yet to meet Jesus. We might call them “disconnected people”. When we think about reaching out to our disconnected neighbors and friends our first thought is “I’ll invite them to church.” It’s a good idea. A good idea, that is, unless your church is stuck in a time warp of stale tradition where the music and preaching are sinfully boring and the mission of the church is as culturally relevant as a Commodore 64 computer. In that case you might want to skip the church invite, dig up an old “Four Spiritual Laws” tract and have a go at it yourself. (But that’s a column for a later time.)

All in all, inviting someone to church is a good idea. Our disconnected friends get to hear the music and God’s Word taught and explained. And hopefully all this is accomplished in an atmosphere of people who genuinely care about each other.

Inviting our disconnected friends to church is a good thing. Yet often forgotten in the process is that when our disconnected friends join us at church, it is an away game for them. We’re bringing them on to our home field, the place where we are most comfortable. We know the music. We know the preaching. We know what words like pulpit and foyer and fellowship mean. We’re surrounded by our home crowd, the people we know. The people who encourage us. We move easily through the routine and the rituals, like a center fielder who knows every dip and divot in his outfield. It’s all familiar territory.

If inviting our disconnected friends and neighbors and co-workers to church is the extent of our relationship building, then every game for them is an away game. Were the roles reversed, how comfortable would you be? How comfortable would you be always playing on someone else’s turf?

I think it’s fascinating that as far as everything we can read in the Bible, Jesus never invited anyone to church. Or to be hermeneutically specific, He never invited anyone to come to the synagogue with Him. In fact, one could argue Jesus never invited anyone to church because He was too busy going into their worlds, meeting them on their home field. When He called Simon Peter and James and John, He climbed into their fishing boat. When He called Levi, He met him at his toll booth. When He crossed paths with Zacchaeus, a tax collector crooked as a dog’s hind leg, Jesus didn’t say, “Our pastor is doing a series on integrity. You should come.” Nope. He said, “Zacchaeus, you best get down here because I’m coming over to your place for dinner.”

I can’t help but wonder if part of what made Jesus so winsome and attractive to disconnected people is that He walked onto their home field and met them there.

Jesus’ command to us was not to “invite everyone to church to hear the gospel preached.” Not that it’s a bad idea. What He said was to “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” That means we need to add a lot more away games to our schedule and get used to playing on the road. And not just get used to it, but to love it the way Jesus loves it. He delights in meeting people where they are.

You’re supposed to win at home. Great teams win on the road. And when it comes to sharing Jesus with your disconnected friends on their field, when you win…they win.

Go.

It’s time to play on the road.

“Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.” – Luke 5:10b-11


Todd A. Thompson – ASliceOfLifeToGo.com